“I’ll be working next year to get a bigger agreement,” Baucus said. He will likely be a chief negotiator if Congress decides to tackle larger tax code reform. “There’s a lot more to be done,” he said.
Other members walked quickly out of the room to avoid the swarms of reporters trying to conduct their own whip counts. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who spoke out against the deal on the floor earlier in the day, said he was leaning toward voting “no.” Others indicated they would swallow the bitter pill handed to them by their own White House and come back to try again for better in 2013.
Democratic leaders did their best to spin the evening in their favor, downplaying any fractures that might have been in the room for the closed-door meeting, which lasted more than an hour.
“Vice President Biden, he was very persuasive, but he did not have to do that much convincing,” said Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. “Sen. Reid basically said that each person could vote the way their conscience says. But as I said, I think when people walked into this room, most of them had made up their mind even though they disliked one provision or another, didn’t like the whole package, thought it was lacking this, thought it was lacking that, that it was better than going over the cliff.”
Citing the president’s remarks from earlier Monday, Schumer also reiterated Democrats would not negotiate anything for the debt ceiling and will insist on additional revenue alongside spending cuts in future deals.
Though liberal Democrats were the most outspoken detractors of the deal brokered by Biden and McConnell, there also was latent concern among those concerned with their electoral chances in 2014. The small package now means that there could be multiple, difficult debt votes throughout 2013. In the 112th Congress, Reid was careful to protect his in-cycle Members from potentially harmful votes. The imminent agreement this week could make that a more difficult challenge for the 113th Congress.
Still, Biden emerged optimistic, saying, “I feel very, very good. I think you’ll get a very good vote tonight.” But he cautioned about predicting how the House might vote on the package.
Even though Senate passed the measure overwhelmingly, House leaders made no promises beyond pledging to bring it to the floor.
“The House will honor its commitment to consider the Senate agreement if it is passed. Decisions about whether the House will seek to accept or promptly amend the measure will not be made until House members — and the American people — have been able to review the legislation,” Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement.
Similarly, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., did not make any predictions about how much support her caucus would provide, saying in a statement earlier Monday night, “When a final agreement is reached and passed by the Senate, I will present it to the House Democratic Caucus.”
Emily Ethridge, Matt Fuller and Humberto Sanchez contributed to this report.